Exclusive: Explore “Animal” Actor Suresh Oberoi’s 4 Decades In Bollywood On His 77th Birthday

Suresh Oberoi who was recently seen in blockbuster movie "Animal" shared his amazing cinematic journey in Bollywood from struggle to success on his 77th birthday.

Suresh Oberoi, who has been in the Bollywood industry for the last 4 decades, was recently seen in the movie “Animal”. He got recognition as a very effective villain in the movie “Shradhanjali”. He is quite famous for his role in “Ek Barr Film”. He has shared his cinematic journey, his struggle, his views on the career of his son Vivek Oberoi and many exclusive things in this interview on the very special occasion of his 77th birthday. 

How did you make your house ‘No Anger Zone’?

‘No Anger Zone’ is necessary. They control themselves. We went for a program in Reliance once and used this line there also. I said, “Why don’t you all make a place somewhere in your office where there is no anger zone and they have done that.

Actually this is damn good idea, very good idea. No Anger Zone should be at every place. But how did you conquer your anger?

I did not conquer my anger but I tried everything. I have done silly things like one pandit told me to stand under shower and took a shower on your neck; whenever I saw red lights on roads, I used to promise myself that i would stop my car and remind myself that I am a very peaceful soul, a happy soul, I don’t get angry. I tried everything but nothing worked. Finally these Sanskar that is not something I get it from my father, my grandfather, my friend, or school or college. Sanksar is from Janmas, how many births the sanskar is. To eradicate that sanskar or to shift into this No Anger Zone, you have to do only meditation and meditate to almighty. What I learned from Brhama kumaris is I take my soul by the concentration to Lord Shiva. It’s not statue or idol its light. I look at the dot continuously and that has erased so many things in my mind.

Did your anger affect your career anyway?

 I have done so many good things along with it like be on time, don’t ask for travel allowance, if producer is in trouble then I don’t ask for my pay, unless and until I am not satisfied with dubbing, i keep doing that. I never waste anybody’s money. I never took makeup man along with me, only one spot boy because he was necessary to give me water and all. Before that, in the first film of Subhash Ghai, he said, ‘this new guy is nice, only driver accompany him.

You didn’t get corrupt as the success came like let’s increase the entourage, did you?

 I didn’t keep entourage because I don’t like it. People from the set told me, ‘Sir you are actor, keep us with you as make-up man and all, we will also get some money.’ So finally, after so long when i was doing a film with Vinod Khanna “Insaaf”, i kept a makeup man. I told him to come with me for my other shoots because what was happening is, in those days I ore lot of beards, wigs and all that. Makeup man from that particular film, didn’t have much time so I kept one but not for the films like “Aitbaar” and other where there was no beard necessary. I started keeping him when i got many roles in beard like Amrish Puri.

 I believe even now when you went for “Animal” which is just recently released, the blockbuster Animal we are talking about. Were you the only one who didn’t take entourage with you or was it offered to you?

 Yeah, I told them, “I don’t want it, just give me one spot boy who will take care of me, give me one makeup man and just one of the assistant you give me”. And they gave me the best of treatment. I feel bad for producer to waste their money like this.

 What was it like you have worked with Rishi Kapoor and you had such a lovely relationship with Rishi Kapoor and now you are working with Ranbir, tell me something about both father and son.

s- Son is a wonderful guy and a wonderful actor and so very well behaved. Neetu and Rishi have brought up him very well. I even send a Whatsapp message to Neetu, “You have brought up your son very well.” He knows exactly how to behave dignified person like you know Raj Kapoor. Once someone assistant of Raj Kapoor told him that, “Sir you yourself are renowned director, but this director put your camera on right instead of left.” So sir said, “I am not director here, I am an actor. Director is the boss.” He did his part regardless of the camera position. And this guy Ranbir Kapoor is very good, his behaviour is excellent.

Yes, he has done a role which is totally different, totally toxic, testosterone, Wanga and “Kabir Singh” …

Wanga loves those things. He is so passionate about his work. There was dubbing of a kid and he was present there for detailing, he didn’t ask his assistants to do that.

 I believe he didn’t recognize you when you went for dubbing.

Yeah, he saw me with this big moustache and suddenly he saw me in another look, he said you looking fresh. I told him that I don’t take tension. I think this is best policy. Once I said something about someone 30-4- years ago like that person did something wrong and thereafter he had so many good things, only such people get success every time. So my mother said, “If god has given a good, dignified position to someone then how can you ever speak against that position? God has given him and that means you are going against the god.” So whenever I see money, looks, body it may be anything, I assumed god has given it to them.

 But you were not like this before, you were equal to the baritone we have in the industry, it was as popular and you were known for your voice.

I took Rs. 25,000 more than Anil Kapoor for the movie “Thikana”. I was getting good money, good price. The only thing is few people didn’t want me to work with them. Fine, it’s okay

But did you ever hear why somebody didn’t want to work with you?

Suppose, somebody is better actor than me or you know there are some people who are hanger-on, then what will they say, he is very troubling or they will say anything but they won’t accept that they are scared. There are people like Jeetendra or Mithun, I have done maximum films with them but they never had any problem. I chose to become a character actor because i knew that if one film of hero flops at box office then it takes a year or two to make comeback, so how should I earn by sitting at home for two years? I didn’t have money from my parents; I didn’t have my own house. Me, my wife, my children and my mother, so for my family I said, first security of money was important, career was my later priority. That’s why I did every role and people got confused. In spite of that, I am grateful to Mukul (Mukul  Anand) who gave me a romantic role in “Aitbaar”. And everybody was like, “Are you mad? You will sing Ghazal in front of Dimple (Dimple Kapadia)?” After “Shradhanjali” no heroin wanted to work with me, said “He is very effective as a villain, and our career can get substandard if we work with him. We will work with hero and he is not a hero.” Because of Shradhanjali my doctor’s wife didn’t talk to me. I asked him, “Gautam where is your wife?” He told me that she wouldn’t talk to me as she saw Shradhanjali.

During that era, ‘Image’ was really a powerful thing and so people were literally denying working with people who have image like this. I am grateful to Dimple; I don’t know how she agreed for that romantic scene. I am surprised, how did she say yes to me.

You have never been one of those romantic actors like Shah Rukh Khan, who sings songs for girls to impress them, kind of actor.

 I always wanted to do those army types of roles, police roles etc. But I have done a film “Tumhaare Bina”, there I have played everything like comedy, romance, relation with child and I have done 2-3 more movies like this.

 But that film didn’t give you a ‘Hero’ stamp did it?

 After watching Shradhanjali character people loved me, they gave me double the money. But nowadays actors do roles, sub-roles but during my time it was like, “you play sunb-roles, how to make a setup with you how would any heroin work with you. You have a Villain image” I said, it may be anything, let me earn money. One thing Vinod Mehra told me, “Let people talk what they want, you just focus on character actor and you can be number one. Don’t go behind this hero thing. You just be perfect at you place in character actor.” Character actor is itself like a hero. Even government of India has accepted when my film “Mirch Masala” got released. It was hit film. Some asked me, “How can you give the best actor award to him, he is not even an actor.” They guys (Government body) discussed themselves and created a role that day of best supporting actor and then I got a national award.

Did you feel nice after winning national award?

I started crying. I couldn’t talk on the phone; I gave it to my wife. It was streaming on the Radio too. That night, Anil Kapoor called me from Shabana’s house and both of them spoke to me. I told them about the night shoot and Anil was like, “Cancel hai aaj, itana bada din hai.”

That kind of Comradery was there and between you and your co-workers?

People used to come with me at my place after shooting every night. My driver used to be a cook, my boy used to be a cook; they used to cook Chinese and all. I had a 15 seater so I used to bring people along with me at my home. Sinha Sahab (Shatrughan Sinha), Danny (Danny Denzongpa) we all used to go at each other’s house without asking. But after Mukul’s and my brother’s death everything changed.

 You come from very non film family and you not just made it in film but now you have become a proper film family, your son Vivek and brother’s son Akshay has really made it in industry. Akshay is doing very, very well and both of them worked together in “Inside Edge”. Have you seen it?

I don’t want to see that, it is too much wild.

 Akshay has played a gay character and then he revealed it in 2nd 3rd season, kissing his boyfriend on ground.

Thank god I haven’t seen. Neither Akshay nor Vivek told me this. And I don’t want to see that thing. I don’t watch OTT as it don’t have censored content.

 How do you like seeing Vivek’s career, the way it has been going? It was going very well and then had a problem

Very well, its okey even I was sitting at home for a year. During 80s when I refused to do negative roles, people used to tell my wife, but now gone mad. People offered me 5 lakh but I didn’t want to do. So I started learning Ghazal and after that “Aitbaar” came. I fit the role but credit goes to brave guys like producer and director and Dimple Kapadia. After a long gap she came. Song was biggest hit from that movie. After that with I worked opposite to Vinod Khanna and Dimple (Insaaf movie).

What was it like working with Vinod Khanna? Did he have any complexes like some of the other heroes had in regards to your voice as you have better voice than him?

It was very nice working with him. Everyone has complexes about something. Even I would felt that if my cofactor had done it much better than me. In one small film there was an actor who wasn’t able to speak in front of me and then said me that, “Ek din mein aapki jagah rahunga or aap meri jagah, dekhna, I am leaving the film.” I didn’t even know him, he wasn’t even introduced. He couldn’t speak the dialogue, he got blank.

 I am so surprised; I never thought people would have this kind of insecurities.

 I was playing Police Officer in a film, I saw Amjad Khan there; I am a big fan of him. I went to met him and said, “Sir I am Suresh Oberoi.” He responded, “Oh you are the same who did ‘Ek Baar Phir’. Are we superstars like this? Do we show these things on screen?” So this also I have seen in my life. Later Anand Sagar made him realize that he couldn’t speak in that way. Actually my role in “Ek Baar Phir” was shown in very low light with girls and money which was a little exaggerating. Vinod Pande made it little extra. But in end I said Amjah Khan, “A person who barely have money and someone come and promise him to give money, make him a hero and an opportunity to go to London, will you deny that offer?” Then he said, “Yeah, you are right. If Dharmendra would have done this, it would not be fair; but new comer. Okay. If you need any help any time, come to me, I am there.”

I barely had money that time, I didn’t even have passport. I begged for passport saying, “I have gotten a role, please issue me passport.” How destiny work no! I went to met Raj Sippy, from there I met Kanwaljit Singh, I knew him from the institute. I told him, “I am very stressed. Sometimes I get modelling, sometimes I get radio but there is no role for me.” Then he told me. “There is guy named Pande he has a role.” And then he gave me his address. I still remembered those words. After reaching home, I called him from Coin box. I began talking, “Sir you are finding a hero and I am not a hero. My moustache is really big.” But then he asked me to meet him right then. It would take Rs.30 from my place to his office.  I went home talked to my wife told her that it would take total of Rs. 60 and at that time Rs. 50 was our weekly budget. But my wife told me to go. When I met him, he kept a huge book in front of me. He said he would read and I would speak the dialogues. I started speaking after him. I had learnt to speak on mic and radio from Brij Bhushan. Brij Bhushan taught me how to stand in front of mic and how to modulate. So I used all those techniques while speaking dialogues. He liked it and said, “You have some fire in yourself. But we give weekly payment.”

I think things are already pre-destined. I and my wife were just walking on the road and we met a Sindhi guy. I asked him about his occupation and he was working in passport office. And I asked him to do for me. And I got passport in two days.  My role from “Ek Barr Phir” was a bad guy and many actors said no to that role like, Kanwaljit, Hari Bhai (Sanjeev Kumar).

 Did that role also help to further consolidate you as a Bad Man?

That time secretaries used to control heroines a lot. They used to threaten heroines saying your image will go down if you work with him and no other hero will work with you. They used to call it image, “Iska yeh image hai.”

How did “Shradhanjali” come about?

That time I was working with Rakhi (Rakhi Gulzar. Once I met her then I met this guy Anil Sharma. Mazhar was doing this film earlier but then Anil asked me, “Mazhar is not doing what I want, will you do this?” Same thing happened with “Tezaab”; Dharmendra was doing my role, one scene had been shot too.  Then I worked very hard on Shradhanjali when Mazhar gave up.  For two films I worked very hard; one was “Shradhanjali” and second was “Kaal Chakra” and that film did very well.

You are talking about Vinod Pande’s film and how you did it when you have no money. But you were already married to Yashi at that time.

 I was married even when I joined the film Institute. I did tell her that I am going to join the film institute. I got married on1st August 1974 and I sent a telegram to Taneja sir that I am not able to join you, please allow me 5 days and I asked her permission. She started crying. After four days I said it’s my stubbornness, I have nothing to do here; I can’t sell medicines (His father’s business).

 How did you dream to going film institute to become and actor?

 At the age of seven I had done a role in my class and then I took All India Radio for children’s program. Then I did two stage plays. I was a big fan of Devanand. I watched his all movies and I remembered all dialogues from his movies. My family was stressed out because of my dream and then they tied my knot.

With Vivek, did you influence his choice of career?

S- Yes, in the beginning I did a lot. I had to struggle like before with the many including Ram Gopal Varma. Then making of “Company”, Ram Gopal Varma asked me, “Suresh do you have something to watch Vivek’s work?” Then he came along with me at my home. I saw a old video of Vivek and he started shouting and suddenly asked for Rs. 10. I kept my wallet in car so I asked Shashi, she was sitting with her friends and I was liek, “Duss rupaye do”. Then Ramu gave it to Vivek and told him, “This is my sign you are doing my film” Then he worked hard for “Company”.

 Did you think he made a good fit as Prime Minister Modi in that film?

He did very well. I liked him very well. So many times I thought that he is Modi only.

You have worked with Bachchan in so many films and this history of Vivek and Aishwarya affect your friendship with Mr. Bachchan?

 I was never a friend of his. I was his costar. We had relation industry wise. Friendship was with Danny, Mukul. Yes Mr. Bachchan invited me for birthday but fine. And he doesn’t let people know about most of the things. But whenever we meet, we are really nice to each other.

 Did you advise Vivek at any time to be careful with his personal life?

No. I really liked that girl when she came home.  I was relief in Vivek’s case at that time and now also. And still we all meet each other very nicely. Whenever Salman Khan meets he hides cigarette and then talk to me as a part of respect. I always tell Vivek to touch Salim Ji’s feet. I also respect Salim Bhai. Things happen but our relationships are good enough. Abhishek also meets my daughter Meghna in a good way. But there is no hatred for each other from the heart.

Vivek is doing very well now, he has a house in Mira road, has a office in Dubai also. And also there were no place in my house, he had so many people coming there, maids, drivers and then that house started giving office vibes, so I am happy that he has settled down. I also wanted to have meditation, more silence, and more spirituality.   

You have always been fantastic at dubbing isn’t it?

 For dubbing I used to stand outside B. R. Chopra’s office and said, “Can I say some lines”. He allowed me and gave money in return.  I was very good at dubbing, in one take I used to done everything.

What was it like dubbing for Mufasa in “Lion King”?

 They asked me for other characters but my daughter was with me and told me to do only King. And later they paid me very well for that.

 Sandeep Vanga and you have been working together. You did “Kabir Singh” and then you done “Animal” so you kind of aware about his work.

Yes, he gave me one compliment he said, “I feel very precise with you, you do exactly what I say. You don’t eat up my brain.” So i am very comfortable with him. Though my role isn’t big but see the respect he gave me by showing my little shot in the trailer. It’s not necessary because I am not helping him to earn money. It’s Ranbir, Vanga’s story, picture which is helping him to earn.

What do you think is Vanga’s USP that he is so well loved at the box office, criticize his toxicity but doing very well at the box office?   

 He doesn’t make that sophisticated angle; he makes a raw which gives reality. He takes what he wants. He has incredible energy.  He came at my place for costume and moustache for five times for this little role then for all others he must have spent much time. And he and his team don’t want you to go on set and sit there; instead they will call you to leave home little later. He is very sensitive towards people unlike many others.

What is your thought on turning 77?

I don’t think anything, I don’t think I am 77. Still I pick up heavy things, I just don’t remember. That day it was Ganesh Puja at home and I pick up some heavy things and everyone was like, “Why are you doing it alone?” I just forgot that it was heavy. Because I was bodybuilder, weight lifter, swimming champion, tennis champion. I used to practice for Karate 3 hours daily.

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